The Corner

Combine the Leftist Love of Power with the Hatred of Dissent . . .

Leftists love to wield power and they’re usually quite intolerant of people who disagree with their plans to transform and improve the world. Put the two together and you get some appalling abuses of governmental authority.

One particularly egregious case recently came to my attention, Bennie v. Munn.

Robert Bennie had been a successful financial advisor in Lincoln, Nebraska for many years. He did not like the election of Barack Obama at all, and in 2009 became active in local Tea Party efforts. He made his support for the whole Constitution and particularly the Second Amendment known. He wrote in the Lincoln paper that he regarded Obama as dishonest and evil, calling him a communist. All of that so incensed three top officials in the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance that they decided to use their power to get back at him for having exercised his rights of free speech in ways they didn’t care for. So they began to pressure Bennie’s employer, a firm called LPL. Eventually, after attempts at mollifying the regulators (led by John Munn, then the Director of the department), LPL terminated Bennie’s employment. And, chastened by the experience, Bennie stopped his Tea Party participation before the 2012 election.

He filed suit, however, alleging that Munn and two of his comrades had violated his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. How do you think his case fared?

As I explain in this article on Forbes, so far he has gotten nowhere. While the district judge agreed that the behavior of the regulators was completely unjustified, he ruled that Bennie had not shown that their attack on him was so bad as to cause a “person of ordinary firmness” to be chilled in the exercise of his First Amendment rights. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit agreed. Now, with assistance from Pacific Legal Foundation, Bennie is trying to get the Supreme Court to review the case.

I take this as yet another piece of evidence that the rule of law is going down the drain in America. When arrogant and abusive public officials can mount a vendetta against a citizen just because they don’t like his politics and get away with it, we’re in terrible trouble.

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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